Cold case goes to court

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Jan 27 2014 07:39:00 PM HST

Opening statements began today for the 1989 murder of Edith Skinner.

HONOLULU -

Opening statements were heard in Circuit Court on Monday for a murder that happened 25 years ago.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' story.

Before prosecuting attorney Scott Bell talked about the death of Edith Skinner, he talked about her life.

"Her routine was very simple; a regular bridge game with friends, she took care of her pet parakeet and she baked," said Bell.

The retired widow lived in a secure public housing building in Honolulu.  Her son Stephen testified his mother kept to herself and her small circle of friends.

"Was your mother at that point in her life, someone who would open the door for a stranger?" asked Bell.

"Not at all," answered Stephen.

In 1989, Gerald Austin's grandmother also lived in the same building. He reportedly told police he had access to the apartment complex.

Skinner's body was found in her bedroom in the summer of 1989.  She had been strangled.

The medical examiner found a suspect's hair and semen in Skinner's body, but police could not make an arrest until 2012 -- after they obtained a DNA sample from Austin.

"There is a perfect match between that unknown male profile on that vaginal swab recovered in 1989 and the defendant's profile -- a perfect match," said Bell.

But Austin's public defender argued the evidence doesn't point to his client being a killer.

"Truth is stranger than fiction. Gerald Austin did not kill Edith Skinner in 1989. At best, what the evidence will show you is there was contact between Gerald Austin and Edith Skinner," said Edward Aquino.

During the trail, jurors will learn more about Skinner's death, but Aquino argued even with all the information it will not be enough to convict Austin of murder.

"What happened in 1989 left many unanswered questions and today, 24 years later, there are still many unanswered questions. At the end of this trial there will remain many unanswered questions," said Aquino.

While the medical examiner found signs Skinner had also been raped 25 years ago, the statute of limitations has run out on that crime, so Austin has only been charged with murder.

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